As part of Pride Month, Matt Westmore, Chief Executive at the Health Research Authority (HRA) shares what allyship means in practice, individually and organisationally.
Matt Westmore, HRA's Chief Executive
As we celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride Month, it is an opportune time to reflect on the significance of allyship and its impact within our organisation and the broader research community.
Allyship is a powerful force that fosters inclusivity, promotes diversity, and creates a safe and supportive environment for everyone. In this blog, I would like to share my thoughts on what allyship means to me, why it matters both at work and in research, and how it contributes to a more inclusive HRA and wider society.
Allyship, to me, represents a proactive commitment to standing alongside our LGBTQ+ colleagues, family, friends, and community members. It means actively supporting and advocating for their rights, dignity, and well-being. We demonstrate that we are not simply bystanders but active participants in the fight for equality and justice; the fight for the right for all of us to exist and be ourselves without fear of prejudice and persecution.
Allyship matters in the workplace because it drives positive change, and fosters inclusivity and representation. By creating an environment where everyone feels valued, respected, safe and seen, we unlock the full potential of our diverse workforce. When individuals can bring their authentic selves to work without fear of discrimination, they feel safe to contribute their unique perspectives, skills, and talents, resulting in stronger and better organisation. This includes being better at preventing and responding to hate incidents that happen on the way to and from our places of work.
For the HRA, allyship goes deeper. We exist to provide a platform for patients and the public to have a voice in research, and we actively try to amplify those voices which are often ignored, yet have much to say and we desperately need to her from. As allies, we have a responsibility to use our power and privilege, and any other means at our disposal, to ensure that LGBTQ+ voices are heard, acknowledged, and included in all research. The pursuit of knowledge and discovery requires diverse perspectives, and LGBTQ+ individuals have unique insights that can contribute to research. LGBTQ+ voices should be heard in all areas of research—this is a matter of power and respect. LGBTQ+ individuals often face health inequalities due to social, cultural, and structural factors. By promoting inclusive research practices, and addressing gaps or biases in data collection and analysis, we can foster scientific advancements that truly reflect the needs and experiences of all individuals and work towards reducing health inequalities for the seldom heard and often ignored.
We recently marked International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia to combat discrimination and violence, both locally and internationally. It is crucial to acknowledge that LGBTQ+ oppression is not limited to other countries; these issues are local and affecting our colleagues and friends. As allies, we must recognise and speak out against such discrimination.
What else can we do?
Demonstrating allyship doesn’t always require grand gestures. The simplest visible acts of validation can make a big difference. Wearing a rainbow lanyard or including preferred pronouns in your email signature are great starts. These small actions create a more inclusive environment and show solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community. If you are already doing these, think what you could do next to create a more inclusive workplace. The Better Allies newsletter archive is a great place to start.
In conclusion, allyship is a powerful tool for fostering inclusion, promoting diversity, and addressing health inequalities in the workplace and research. By actively listening to, believing and responding to the experiences of LGBTQ+ colleagues, we can create a culture that celebrates diversity and ensures that everyone feels valued and respected for simply being themselves. To know they have the support of their colleagues for that, doesn’t seem much to ask.